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First-year Project Experience in Aerospace: Apogee Determination of Model Rockets with Explicit Consideration of Drag Effect

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering Physics Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

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Paper Authors


Hüseyin Sarper Old Dominion University

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Hüseyin Sarper, Ph.D., P.E. is a senior lecturer in the Engineering Fundamentals Division at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He was a professor of engineering and director of the graduate programs at Colorado State University – Pueblo in Pueblo, Col. until 2014. He was also an associate director of Colorado's NASA Space Grant Consortium between 2007 and 2013. His degrees, all in industrial engineering, are from the Pennsylvania State University (BS) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (MS and Ph.D.). His interests include Space, reliability, economic analysis, and renewable energy.

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Drew Landman Old Dominion University

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Dr. Landman is a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Old Dominion University where he teaches graduate level classes in aerodynamics and statistical based experiment design, and supervises doctoral and masters students. His current research areas include use of statistical process control in long term balance calibration monitoring, use of Design of Experiments(DOE) in wind tunnel check standard testing, and development of in-flight test methods for use with unmanned aerial vehicles. Landman was jointly appointed as Chief Engineer at the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel (LFST) at NASA Langley until its closing in September 2009. During his 13 year tenure at the LFST, Dr. Landman was responsible for designing force measurement systems and supervising wind tunnel tests on a variety of test articles including aerospace and ground vehicles. Dr. Landman has served as an international consultant for training engineers in DOE as applied to aerospace ground testing.

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Linda Vahala Old Dominion University

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Dr. Linda Vahala received her from the University of Illinois in 1969, an M.S. degree from the University of Iowa in 1971, and a Ph.D from Old Dominion University in 1983. Her publications include articles in both plasma physics and atomic physics with an emphasis on laser interactions with plasma and with neutral/rare gas collisions. She has presented her work at various international workshops and meetings, both in Europe and in the United States. She is currently Associate Dean and Director of the Engineering Fundamentals Division at ODU. In 1995, she received the Peninsula Engineer of the Year award.

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This paper describes a student team project using model rockets and engines to learn engineering solution methods for determining the apogee of model rocket when the drag effect is considered explicitly instead of estimating its effect later. Model rocketry is a powerful tool for instructors who wish to incorporate science, engineering, and mathematics into a fun, engaging, and challenging activity for the students. The apogee can be determined using a number of distinct methods: trigonometry, onboard altimeters, analytical calculations, and simulation. This paper emphasizes numerical analytical solution using spreadsheet programming instead of a full analytical solution that requires higher mathematics. Students got a practical introduction to many engineering concepts they will later study. These concepts include thrust, impulse, drag, payload, ascent and descent (with and without a parachute) times, speed, and acceleration. The importance of the future courses in physics was also emphasized. These activities constitute one of two team projects of 1.5 credit portion of a two-credit course in exploration of engineering and technology. Students learn many skills they need later in their studies and professional practice. Teamwork is a skill that they acquired as they organized into a group with many specialized responsibilities for the purpose of launching their rockets, collecting data to be processed and, writing a report. Students also learned or improved spreadsheet skills while performing data entry and necessary mathematical calculations.

Sarper, H., & Landman, D., & Vahala, L. (2016, June), First-year Project Experience in Aerospace: Apogee Determination of Model Rockets with Explicit Consideration of Drag Effect Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26910

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